Study warns of a new cyberterrorism called 'netwar'

Terrorist groups of the future will rely increasingly on advanced communications and network technologies to carry out coordinated cyberattacks and to attract sympathizers to their cause, according to a report released last week by Rand Corp.

"The New Terrorism" resulted from a year-long project sponsored by the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for air and space operations. The study reports that changes in the way terrorist groups organize and use technology indicate the emergence of a new form of terrorism known as "netwar."

New defense strategies and scenarios are needed to combat the new threat, the report concluded.

"The rise of networks is likely to reshape terrorism in the Information Age and lead to the adoption of netwar—a kind of Information Age conflict that will be waged principally by nonstate actors," the report said. "There is a new generation of radicals and activists who are just beginning to create Information Age ideologies. New kinds of actors, such as anarchistic and nihilistic leagues of computer-hacking 'cyboteurs' may also partake of netwar."

Netwar relies less on hierarchical command and control organizations and more on dispersed Information Age network designs, according to the report. The report predicts that cyberterrorsits will put more effort into building "arrays of transnationally internetted groups" than into developing stand-alone organizations.

In addition, the report predicts cyberterrorists will use new tactics, such as "swarming," to conduct cyberattacks. Swarming occurs when members of a terrorist group, spread over great distances, electronically converge on a target from multiple directions, coalescing rapidly and stealthily to carry out an attack.

This new cyberattack is different from the traditional form of attacking in waves, a method that seeks to deliver a massive knockout blow from a single direction on the Internet.

The report also concludes that terrorists may have just as much interest in preventing attacks against the Internet so that they are able to get their message out to as many people as possible.

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